Planet Star Sky Show

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 9, 2010 – 10:30 am -

Venus Pairs up with Bright Star; Click to enlarge

Venus Pairs up with Bright Star; Click to enlarge

Friday through Sunday evening check out a close encounter between planet Venus and one of the brightest stars in the heavens.

Face towards the western horizon after sunset and look for the brightest star-like object about a third way up the sky. That is Venus – also known as the evening star. Once dusk sets in and it gets dark enough look just underneath Venus and you should see a fainter star pop out- Regulus. As an added bonus check out the planets Mars and Saturn too. The three planets are lined up like a row of ducks – quite a sight too!

By Saturday evening Venus-Regulus will be their closest to each other – only 1 degree apart – that is equal to the width of your finger held out at arms length.  If you keep watch into Sunday and Monday you will notice Venus moving off towards the southwest – that is the actual motion of Venus in its orbit you can watch happening right before your eyes.

regulus-sun-comparisonThe lead member in the constellation Leo- the lion, Regulus marks the heart of the lion and lies 78 light years away. A hot blue-white star, it is about 3.5 times larger than our Sun and is a young teenager when it comes to star lifetimes at 300 million years old.

It is about 150 times fainter in the sky right now than Venus, yet it is still the 19th brightest star in the entire sky.


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Double Star Show Tonight

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 6, 2010 – 4:26 pm -

If you have clear skies tonight then check out a really beautiful pairing of the planet Mars with Regulus, the lead star in the constellation Leo. What will make this event particularly neat to see is the contrasting colour between the orange-hued planet and the white star. The pair will be separated by less than a degree – 2 full moon disks apart.

Mars and Regulus are in close conjunction Sunday night

Mars and Regulus are in close conjunction Sunday night

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Moon Near Lion’s Heart

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 23, 2010 – 5:58 pm -

Face the southern horizon tonight and look for the Moon pairing up with the lead star in the constellation Leo, the lion. Also if you look carefully you may notice that the Moon is also sandwiched between two  bright star-like objects – planets Mars and Saturn – both a bit of  a distance away from Luna but still a pretty show.

Friday night: Moon sits under 78 light year distant Regulus

Friday night: Moon sits under 78 light year distant Regulus


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Double Stellar Spectacle

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 18, 2009 – 10:09 am -

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Over the course of the next few early mornings the eastern sky will host two stellar jewels in a tight celestial dance. The planet Venus, also known as the ‘morning star’ has been slowly sinking towards the horizon the past few weeks inching its way closer to another bright star in the same part of the sky – Regulus.
The brightest member of the constellation Leo, the lion, Regulus will be joined by Venus in a very tight embrace. Saturday morning the much brighter Venus will be just above the brilliant star.
click to enlarge

click to enlarge

But the closest encounter will happen on Sunday morning when the pair will  be separated by less than 0.5 degrees – that is only the width of one full moon disk! 
By Monday morning the goddess of love will continue its journey down the sky and leave behind the Heart of the Lion still standing vigil.  Those with binoculars or small telescopes can get a nice glimpse of the pair up close.
Remember that while they may look close in the sky, in reality Venus is 220 million km away, while Regulus is 77 light years distant. It takes about an entire human lifetime for its light to reach us! Something to think about when taking in this beautiful sky show this weekend.

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Hunt for Sunset Mercury this Weekend

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 31, 2009 – 10:45 am -

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Up for a skywatching challenge the next few evenings? Try to spot little Mercury hanging super low in the western horizon. The innermost planet will only be 9 degrees or so above the western horizon just after sunset. That is about equal to your fists width at arms length. Luckily faint star-like Mercury will be easier to find thanks to the nearby, much brighter star Regulus – lead member of the constellation Leo. Friday night the pair will be separated by only 3 degrees – equal to about 6 full Moon disks apart with Mercury to the right of Regulus. But by Sunday evening the pair has its closest encounter with faint Mercury sitting just above Regulus – only a half degree apart – equal to only one full Moon disk apart! A very cool sight – don’t miss it. If you have never seen this tiny planet, Regulus will act as a great guidepost in tracking down your target. Remember to be patient in finding Mercury – it is considered the most difficult of all the five classical naked-eye planets to see in the sky. Tip – find a viewing location that is clear of any obstruction of the western horizon and also binoculars will help a lot in spotting it in the dusk’s glare. As an added bonus to the far upper left of the pair, will be the much brighter planet Lord of the Rings, Saturn. Good luck with your planetary hunt!


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Luna and the Lion’s Heart Tonight

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 26, 2009 – 10:53 am -

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

If you have clear skies tonight check out a beautiful crescent Moon pairing up with the  bright star, Regulus in the southwest horizon at around 10 pm. Up until a few hundred years back, this blue-white star was called officially by its Latin name – Cor Leonis – The Lion’s Heart’. It is the brightest star in the constellation Leo and if you lookat the outline of the mythical figure, Regulus definitely does mark the spot where the lion’s heart would be.

Regulus is about 77 light years away and is larger and much younger than our own Sun - 3.5 times bigger and only a few hundred million years old.  What you may not know is that it is in fact a multiple star system consisting of 4 different stars that revolve around each other in pairs. Also recent observations of this bright star has revealed that its spins so fast around its axis, that its shape is distorted resembling an egg. While our Sun rotates on its axis in about 24 hours, Regulus takes only 16 hours !


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Moon Passes Stellar Trio

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 29, 2009 – 3:20 pm -

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click to enlarge

]Starting this evening (Friday) the near quarter Moon will glide past the brightest star in the constellation Leo. Regulus is about 76 light years away from Earth. Then by Sunday evening the Moon will have skipped over to meet up with the Lord of the Rings. The gas giant planet Saturn is about 1.2 billion km distant and will make a spectacular pair with our closest neighbour in the sky. if you have a telescope and have never seen Saturn then this is a great opportunity since you can use the Moon as a guidepost in finding it. You don’t need a big scope either, even the smallest one will do.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

To see this sky show face towards the southwest at around 10 pm local time. By Monday the Moon will continue its trek across the southern sky and enter the Virgo constellation and tuck underneath its lead star, Spica.  Throughout this week the Moon’s shape will change from crescent to quarter into waxing gibbous.
Skycharts for next week will follow so stay tuned.

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Posted in Constellations, Planets, Stargazing, The Moon, Uncategorized, stars | 2 Comments »